Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jesuit Booster Shot...

Forgive me for like my namesake, St. Thomas, I can be a doubter, and like many of you my Faith has its ebbs and flows, its peaks and valleys. That is why it is important for us to recognize those around us who passionately follow St. Ignatius' call to do all things ad majorem Dei gloriam.

I was privileged to attend the Hogan/Ignatius Awards at my alma mater this past Sunday to honor two great hawks, Dr. Lesley D'Ambola, D.O, SJU '82, and Dan Gallagher, SJU '94. Just as an additional dose of a vaccine is needed to periodically boost our immune system, so we also need a periodic boost for our Faith. I'm so glad to have had my Jesuit booster shot this week :-) I wish to share it with all of you.

Katie Arden, the Jesuit Volunteer at St. Luke's, was kind enough to forward Lesly's acceptance speech. Lesley's friend and former roommate at Sourin Residence, Dr. Susan Marcel, wrote "I think the video or text should be on a link on facebook, or, or you tube.  Her speech was too important to be lost on just our ears." I agree, and below is Lesly's speech. I took the liberty to post some pictures, for pictures are worth a thousand words, and painstakingly included links in the text -- ech one tells a great story... for Lesly is the first person to tell you that she works with many heroes.

So why politicians ramble on what to do about healthcare, and spend untold millions on studies on how to do it... Lesly, Fr. Aita, Dr. Cavalieri, Chris Meyers, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, St. Luke's, the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Society of Jesus, the Oblates of St. Francis deSales, the JVC, the Diocese of Camden, St. Joseph's University, and many others... just do it.

A while back when I had my mini-fund raiser for St. Luke's I was talking to my next-door neighbor Louis Ramon, who was raised in Camden and attended Holy Name. He remembered sitting on the shoulders of Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ, former pastor of Holy Name and now head of Campus Ministry at the University of Scranton. Of how he took a stand against the drug dealers in the neighborhood, even when it meant there was a price on his head. Again, so many heroes.

Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P. states that "the poor person is someone who is treated as a non-person, someone who is considered insignificant from an economic, political and cultural point of view. The poor count as statistics; they are the nameless. But even though the poor remain insignificant within society, they are never insignificant before God." Similarly Archbishop Oscar Romero, in a homily preached shortly before his martyrdom, said "God's reign is already present on our earth in mystery. When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection. That is the hope that inspires Christians. We know that every effort to better society, especially when injustice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us."

To Lesly and her friends -- no one is nameless, no one is insignificant, and God is blessing their efforts. But of course they can always use some help. Your help. And don't think for a moment that you have to be a medical professional, or wealthy, to help. I know for a fact that the kitchen at St. Luke's, the one mentioned in Lesly's speech, is in desperate need of a floor. Anyone ;-)

After the brunch I spoke to Lesly and she told me she was excited to get the Fr. Joseph Hogan, SJ Award because... she thought that something like this might enable her to get more grants to help those at St. Luke's. Typical of this "woman for others".  AMDG indeed. I'm pretty sure this is what God wants...what God demands.


St. Luke's Catholic Medical Services
511 State Street
Camden, New Jersey  08102
(Directions to St. Luke's)

Alumni Association Presents 2010 Hogan Award to D'Ambola

The Saint Joseph’s University Alumni Association will present Lesly A. D’Ambola, D.O. ’82 with the Rev. Joseph S. Hogan, S.J. Award.

The Hogan Award is bestowed annually upon an alumnus or alumna who exemplifies Christian principles and outstanding loyal service to the University. A champion for the poor, Dr. D’Ambola has dedicated her life to service and the betterment of underserved populations in New Jersey. For the past decade, she has served as medical director at St. Luke’s Catholic Medical Services, which is a ministry of the Holy Name of Camden. St. Luke’s provides a full range of medical and health services for the poor, uninsured, and under-insured in Camden, N.J.

Her passions for service and medicine were instilled at Saint Joseph’s and later as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. D’Ambola graduated cum laude from the SJU in 1982 with a degree in psychology. She was member of Psi Chi, the National Psychology Honors Society, and Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-medical honors society. As a JVC volunteer, she spent two years working with Catholic Community Services in San Jose, California at a Vocational Learning and Treatment Center. Following her tour with the JVC, she spent an additional year in California, before returning to North Jersey, where she earned a Mayoral Citation for her work directing homeless programs in Jersey City, N.J.

She received her medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – School of Osteopathic Medicine in 1994 and completed her residency at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, N.J. She has remained active at both her alma maters, teaching as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at UMDNJ-SOM and serving terms as both vice president and president of SJU’s Medical Alumni Chapter. In addition, St. Luke’s is a community service and service learning site for current SJU students, as well as a medical placement location for the JVC.

Dr. D’Ambola is a native of Newark, N.J. and a graduate of Newark Academy. She is the daughter of Dr. Samuel and Alice D’Ambola and the sister of Dr. John D’Ambola and his wife Lori. She is the proud aunt of Samantha. She is a member of Sacred Heart Church in Camden.

Proud papa Dr. Samuel D'Ambola, with Hogan Award recipient Dr. Lesly D'Ambola.


The Fr. Joseph Hogan, SJ Award acceptance speech
by Lelsey A. D'Ambola, DO, SJU '82
Thank you Tom for your gracious introduction. I am truly humbled by this award. I have so many thank-yous to say that I’ve lost count. First and foremost, I must thank God for without my faith and trust in God none of this would have happened – my journey, my calling to practice medicine, this award. To God, I give the ultimate praise and honor.

Thank you to Fr. Timothy Lannon, SJ and the National Alumni Board for this award. Thank you to my parents who worked hard and sacrificed greatly to provide my brother and me with great educations in private schools and subsequently medical schools. Thank you to the medical alumni for the honor and privilege of serving as president and vice-president of the medical alumni association. Thank you to St. Joe’s, and to some of my professors here too, for the wonderful education I received here. Thank you to the HPAC committee for supporting my application to medical school six years after graduating from here. To the Diocese of Camden and to Dr. Thomas Cavalieri, DO and UMDNJ-SOM (University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine) for supporting the Jesuit ministry of St. Luke’s Catholic Medical Services. Finally, I want to congratulate Dan Gallagher, SJU '94, who just received the Ignatius award, and to thank everyone for coming today; your presence is greatly appreciated.

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been reflecting on my journey to St. Luke’s and recounting my journey as a student at St. Joe’s. Would I be at St. Luke’s if I weren’t a student here? I think not. Because little did Fr. Mark Aita, SJ, MD and Dr. Cavalieri know that there was a third entity—I call it divine intervention—working to help me get to St. Luke’s. The St. Joe’s connection is Fr. Bill Gavin, SJ, my dear friend Fr. Bill Gavin, SJ, who was the director of campus ministry here. I met Fr. Bill when I was a freshman in the beautiful little chapel in Bellarmine Hall at daily mass. With my classmate Dave Burns, Fr. Bill started the search retreats here, the longest running retreat program at St. Joe’s.

Lesly with mentor Fr. Mark Aita, SJ, MD.
 Participating in search retreats was one of the highlights of my experience at St. Joe’s. Over the years, Fr. Bill and I kept in touch, and just before graduating from medical school in 1994, I went on retreat with him at Wernersville. Fast-forward to approximately 1998-1999 when Fr. Bill heard that Mark Aita was leaving St. Luke’s. Fr. Bill later told me that he prayed that I would come to St. Luke’s, and when he heard I was here, he was not at all surprised. So today, Sept. 26, the fourth anniversary of Fr. Bill Gavin’s death, I accept this award and dedicate it in loving memory of Fr. Bill Gavin, SJ on behalf of myself and all the searchers. Personally, I want to thank you, Fr. Bill, for helping me to get “ruined for life” at SJU and in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

1982 was a significant year. On a personal note, I graduated from this fine school, and joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) in San Jose, California. In 1982, the Jesuits arrived in Camden, and fell in love with and served the beautiful people of Camden and Holy Name Church for 26 years and developed a wonderful network of ministries serving North Camden and beyond. They joined the Sisters of St. Joseph who had already been there many years teaching the beautiful children at Holy Name School. The Jesuits and the sisters of St. Joseph worked well together in Holy Name School and provided 26 years of education for its students.

In his poignant prayer, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ talks about falling in love with God. In 2000, I fell in love with a wonderful organization called Holy Name of Camden-Jesuit Urban Service Team – which consisted of 5 ministries: Holy Name church and school; St. Luke’s Catholic Medical Services, started by Jesuit physician Fr. Mark Aita, SJ; Camden Center for Law and Social Justice, started by Jesuit attorney Fr. Dave Brooks; and Guadalupe Family Services, founded by Sr. Helen Cole, Sister of St. Joseph and licensed clinical social worker.

This award is not just about me, but about the inspiring work of Fr. Mark Aita, SJ and the staff of St. Luke’s and all the ministries of JUST. There are so many stories I could tell you about the people we serve at St. Luke’s, the most powerful for me was about a young woman, the granddaughter of one of my patients. One day, she accompanied her grandma to St. Luke’s, and I remembered we met at Lourdes hospital when I took care of her grandma there. She replied, “No, Dr. D’Amola, we met about three years ago here at St. Luke’s. I was in a very difficult time in my life. I was pregnant and planning to get an abortion, and you brought me into the kitchen to discuss other options: adoption services, and services to help me in my pregnancy. And today I have a beautiful two-year-old daughter.”

Stories like this occurred at St. Luke’s with Fr. Mark Aita, SJ and his staff, long before I arrived at St. Luke’s. I wondered what would have happened if there were no St. Luke’s. This is why we need St. Luke’s to promote life and be a presence as a Catholic medical ministry in Camden.

In health care, we talk about the eyes and ears – for instance, the nurses at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center are the physicians’ eyes and ears when it comes to patient care. I can’t always be present at the hospital. In keeping the same medical analogy, we can call the City of Camden the patient and call the Jesuits the physicians. But there is a shortage of “physicians,” so the Jesuits are unable to be physically present in Camden. But there are lots of eyes and ears in Camden. Who are the eyes and ears?

Lesly at St. Luke's in front of photos of the many happy patients over the years.

Well, it’s us – the alumni and students of St. Joe’s. We are all called to be the eyes and ears of the Jesuits as women-and-men-for-others. In addition to Sr. Helen Cole, SSJ, myself, St. Luke’s nurse practitioner and former Jesuit Volunteer Chris Myers, and the staff of all the ministries, there are the student volunteers of St. Joe’s. Our wonderful St. Joe’s students who come to Camden to serve at St. Luke’s, through the service-learning program and through the community service of campus ministry. We also have pre-med students referred to us by Fr. Mark Aita, SJ of St. Joseph's Institute of Catholic Bioethics here and Connie O’Hara, the pre-med advisor. At Guadalupe Family Services, St. Joe’s volunteers work with Sr. Helen Cole, SSJ and SJU alumnus Phil Dacchille. St. Joseph's students also run Holy Name Summer Camp for 30 children from North Camden. The SJU Hawk school bus is a “shuttle” for their adventures. The campers go to our campus two days each week for swimming. For many, this is the first college campus they see – what an impact St. Joe’s is having!

Other eyes and ears of the Jesuits include John Trumbore and Dennis Diamond, Ignatian Volunteers, who have worked tirelessly with Fr. Mark Aita, SJ and other Jesuit Superiors in Camden to keep Holy Name School open and to raise funds for tuition-assistance to help Holy Name graduates attend Catholic high schools. Also on State Street, Fr. Jeff Puthoff, SJ and Hopeworks ‘N Camden teach kids valuable computer skills. I see the Jesuit influence in all the St. Joe’s medical alumni I meet at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, selflessly caring for the people of Camden. I see it in the Jesuit Volunteers, who have served in Camden for 24 years.

We are going through some major changes in our organization, our name has changed to Holy Name Ministries and Sr. Helen Cole, SSJ is our new executive director. Our Oblates of St. Francis de Sales colleagues have come to serve the people of Camden, continuing the work of the Jesuits and beginning their own mission and ministries. We are grateful for their presence. I would like to publicly thank our Jesuit colleagues for all you’ve done in Camden, and I want to assure you that we, your eyes and ears, will continue you mission here.

Finally, I want to invite you all to fall in love with our ministries, the people of Camden, and the beautiful children of Holy Name School.

Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.

It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love,
stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

- Pedro Arrupe, SJ
Superior General of the Society of Jesus (1961-1984)

Dr. Susan Poserina Marcel, Lesly, and Maria D'Arcy; former SJU roomies,
outside the Chapel of St. Joseph -- Michael J. Smith, SJ Memorial.

44's brush with greatness ;-) Congrats Doc Lesly!